Digital Polyphony

film, games, memories & random thoughts


Creative Destruction

Posted on August 7, 2013 at 7:10 PM


This year we had two films that are "Terrotists take over the White House" ideas.  I've seen both. I've been sitting on the reviews for a while (because honestly they're both pretty forgettable, but reviews will coincide with this blog) but the plots are pretty much identical and in about six months you'll certainly get both confused in the same way people can't quite recall the Baldwin brothers outside of Alec.

There's a long history here, so it's nothing new. A couple of Snow White movies last year, Friends with Benefits and No Strings Attached a few years back. Red Planet and Mission to Mars. There were two Truman Capote movies out the same year. Tombstone and Wyatt Earp. Volcano and Dante's Peak came out the same year. Armageddon and Deep Impact was a famous one.

There's a term for this, you know. "Creative Destruction" or sometimes called "Schumpeter's gale." It's actually rooted in the history of Marxism: a forced destruction of a mass production of forces."  It goes on about how capitalism is driven by self-preservation and, later detailed by Schumpeter who took Marx's ideas, notes how innovation stagnates and devalues and therefore everything just melds in to one monolopy of ideas by impeding progress. In other words, there's a thing (idea, product whathaveyou) and capitalism jumps on that wagon, kicks everyone else off then rides it off a cliff.  Then, once that wagon is destoryed, it's off to the next wagon, drive it off a cliff, and so on

It's a little more than that, but my focus is on the "idea" portion. Movies are "ideas," and boy do studios love to gather up that wagon and drive it off the nearest cliff.

If there's any great example of American capitlaism at work, it's the Hollywood studio system. This isn't a philosophy blog, though. I'm not a professional, but I do feel there's a parallel here how the movie system isn't just destroying itself (that's well noted) but is completely destroying the idea of creativity. Similar projects. Some nearly identical. Remakes and so on...but really the fact that every year there's movies that are nearly identical is distressing. Creative Destruction is broad, but in this respect it's entirely narrow.

So how does all that happen? Well, when stuff is in development, it's hard to know what the other guy is doing. In the case of something like Snow White or the Capote movies, where rights and life rights are involved, the Capote movies were based on two different souce materials, and whoever had Capote's life rights (probably his estate) probably ok'd both.  As for Snow White, it's public domain. Damn right they're going after it. If there's something with a "name" or "brand" in public domain it's like someone just poured a bucket of chum in a pool full of hungry sharks.

Speaking of that, it leads us to another one that just made recent headlines: Syfy is doing an Oz series. There was a movie just last year, and now there's a series. The Oz books are public domain, so why not? Wagon (idea). Cliff (audience interest). Ground (time to find something new). Let's do this!

Make sure you hype it to death too! Make that wagon shine!

Of course, I'm stating the obvious. But my point is this: Hollywood will kill the idea the minute it's born. There'll be a year or so window, but it's like a match being struck in a room full of gasoline. It'll go up quick, then just burn out and anybody who wants to do that idea again really can't because it's been done.

My theory is this: people developing movies know what others are doing. Well, in terms of marketing a movie, not in terms of quality (obviously). The trick, at least I think, is that because they know someone else has a similar script, it becomes a race. That race happens because they're aware that if they don't come out around the same time, a year or six months later it will be "an old idea" and nobody will go.

But get them all within a three to four month window, like After Earth and Oblivion this year, and you might have a "push" and make a little bit of money. The movie-going audience won't mind if they're close together, but let some time go by and suddenly there's more of a negative connotation to the one that was similar to that movie they saw last year. Or last week. They might say "I want to see that to see which is better" and not mind it when movies are similar when released close together. It hasn't gotten into their head yet, they saw a movie and the idea of seeing another movie just like it (especially if they liked that first movie) isn't such a stretch.  Hollywood thinks they know the audience, and they'll do as they please...

I might be making that audience part up, truth is I don't know how studios think they act, but I do know that studios are paranoid and when one is developing one idea and the other a similar idea, that race to the finish line usually ends up with mediocrity and wishful thinking they'll make their money back.

At the same time, it burns out the idea. The audiences really couldn't care less after they've seen so much of one thing. It's like eating the same meal every week, month and year. Pretty soon it doesn't turn in to a satisfying dining experience and is just a "thing I have to put in my mouth so I don't die." It becomes bland. Old. The creativity is all used up and the audience doesn't care as much because it wasn't spread out enough, just over-indulged. And that's why nobody has made a good cop/doggie movie since Turner and Hootch and K-9 cornered the market in 1989.


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